Oct 18 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
FAILURES in the way that Harrow’s vulnerable young people are being supported and protected have been highlighted by inspectors.
Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the opposition Conservatives, branded as ‘devastating’ and ‘damning’ the report by Ofsted into the Labour-run Harrow Council’s safeguarding and looked after children services.
The report by inspectors said too many children remain on child protection plans for too long without evidence that their circumstances are improving.
Many of the areas examined were judged merely ‘adequate’ and the promotion of health among boys or girls under the council’s wing, or young adults leaving care, was flagged up as being ‘inadequate’.
Ms Hall said: “The safeguarding service is supposed to support and protect some of Harrow’s most vulnerable young residents, so for Harrow to be rated ‘adequate’ – meaning only the statutory minimum is being done – is a matter of real concern.
“Though the inspection report contained some positives, it’s clear that the service just isn’t good enough at present, and the council’s Labour administration shouldn’t be taking any comfort at all from its findings.”
Councillor Mitzi Green (Labour), portfolio holder for children, schools and families, said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday last week: “Protecting vulnerable children is at the heart of everything that we do in children’s services and it is a duty we take extremely seriously. Although we are disappointed by this report, it is clear from the inspectors’ findings that we have the foundations in place to become an outstanding service. We are working closely with health, police, and all partners to ensure we address the shortfalls identified.”
A team of three of Her Majesty’s Inspectors and one inspector from the Care Quality Commission carried out the assessment between May 8 and May 18, two months after the council introduced a new operating model for children’s services that comprises a dedicated team, incorporating a multi-agency safeguarding hub, acting as a single point of contact for anyone with concerns about young people.
Safeguarding services was graded adequate for overall effectiveness and capacity for improvement; whereas services for looked after children was graded adequate for overall effectiveness and good for capacity for improvement.
The report said: “While statutory requirements are being met, services to protect the most vulnerable children are only adequate and require improvement.
“The local authority has a clear vision of how it aims to improve the safety of Harrow’s children which is shared by staff and partners.”
It went on: “There was insufficient rigour and challenge in supervision and in reviewing plans, and a lack of clarity about when legal processes might be required. As a result too many children remain on child protection plans for too long without evidence that their circumstances are improving.”
At the end of March, the council’s children’s services department was responsible for 156 looked-after children.
n For the full report see www.harrowobserver.co.uk.